Two military aircraft in full mission capable status on September 11, 2012. Never activated—Benghazi FOIA Exclusive
In what has been arguably viewed as an effort to protect Hillary Clinton’s potential presidential bid, five Democrats on the Benghazi Select Committee launched a website in September called Benghazi on the Record to collect “as much information as possible regarding questions that have already been asked and answered about the attacks in Benghazi.”
Prepared at the request of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MA), the Benghazi minority site claims this question has already been answered: “Did the Pentagon fail to deploy assets that could have saved lives the night of the attacks?”
“Interviews with nine military officials in the chain of command, numerous congressional reports, and the independent Accountability Review Board have all examined the military response. Each investigation has concluded that although the military allocated and mobilized various assets to address the crisis, their response was limited by the availability of resources and the status of forces on the night of the attacks.”
Really? The Pentagon was limited by the availability of resources?
New information obtained in a freedom of information request (FOIA) reveals otherwise. There were two Marine Corps assets in “full mission capable status, ready to be employed” that were not activated.
Two KC-130Ts: AIC Buno 022 in Sigonella, Italy and AICBUNO 311 in Djibouti, Africa
According to an email dated November 2, 2012, obtained via FOIA, SPMAGTF-A [Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Central Command- Africa] had 2 KC-130Ts supporting its operations that were available.
The subject line of the email reads: “FAST and SPMAGTF 12.2 RFIs from Senator McCain’s office.” It was sent at 4:49 p.m. The names of the sender and recipients have been redacted for privacy reasons but include U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps personnel (FOIA below).
“On 11 September 2012, one KC-130T (AIC BUNO 022) was on station in Sigonella, Italy and the other KC-130T (AICBUNO 311) was in Djibouti, Africa. Neither aircraft was in an alert status. The two aircraft were in a full mission capable status, ready to be employed, but both aircraft lacked Aircraft Survivability Equipment (flares) which increased operational risk… There were seventy total SPMAGTF-A personnel at NAS Sigonella on 11 September 11, 2012.”
“The KC-130Ts could have been deployed,” a retired Air Force source said in an interview with this journalist. “It is standard procedure to never leave flares on an aircraft for safety reasons, but they can be easily added to the aircraft in well under an hour while the Marines could have been getting ready to deploy to Benghazi.”
According to the U.S. Marine Corp Fact File, “The KC-130 is a multi-role, multi-mission tactical tanker/transport which provides the support required by Marine Air Ground Task Forces. This versatile asset provides in-flight refueling to both tactical aircraft and helicopters as well as rapid ground refueling when required. Additional tasks performed are aerial delivery of troops and cargo, emergency resupply into unimproved landing zones within the objective or battle area, airborne Direct Air Support Center, emergency medevac, tactical insertion of combat troops and equipment, evacuation missions, and support as required of special operations capable Marine Air Ground Task Forces.”
Flying from Sigonella, Italy to Benghazi, Libya typically takes about 2 hours assuming an average flight speed for a commercial airliner of 500 mph.
While the KC-130T in Djibouti, Africa was further away, with a typical flight time of about 4-hours to Benghazi, it was not deployed either, despite the fact that no one knew how the Benghazi attacks would unfold or how long it would last. U.S. troops were in Djibouti training host nation forces as a part of an agreement with the Djiboutian military.
Let’s look at the timeline to see if these deployable assets could have made a difference.
The first call for help came in on September 11, 2012 at 9:40 p.m. when at least 60 different attackers swarmed the compound in Benghazi where Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Sean Smith were staying.
CIA Global Response Staff (GRS) and former Navy SEALs, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, were killed on the roof of the CIA Annex by mortar fire during the third wave of attacks. According to the Senate Intelligence Benghazi Report the third attack began on September 12, 2012 at 5:15 a.m. approximately 7 hours after the initial attack began.
Could the SPMAGTF-A KC-130T AIC BUNO 022 stationed in Italy have gotten to Benghazi to have made a difference for Woods and Doherty? Possibly.
Defying a Presidential Order?
Considering these two SPMAGTF-A KC-130T assets were not deployed; one must ask if former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey defied President Barack Obama’s direct presidential order.
Why? Because according to Benghazi on the Record, “Senior officials, including the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have testified that they personally informed the President about the attacks, and the President immediately ordered the military to deploy all available assets to protect American lives.”
There were more assets that were not deployed either.
As I reported in a previous in a Benghazi FOIA exclusive, Marine Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) was also available. Ultimately FAST platoon was deployed to Tripoli and not to Benghazi from EUCOM FAST Company.
Moreover in another FOIA exclusive, Judicial Watch obtained an unclassified Navy map that showed the “U.S. military had a multitude of forces in the region surrounding Libya,” at the time of the Benghazi attack. These assets were not deployed either.
These military options are in addition to the rapid response Special Ops force via a C-110 that were not deployed from Zagreb, Croatia –as Fox News’ Adam Housley reported.
Additionally, as Sharyl Attkison reported in, Diplomat: U.S. Special Forces told “you can’t go” to Benghazi during attacks, Deputy to Ambassador Stevens’ Gregory Hicks testified before congressional investigators, “I believe if we had been able to scramble a fighter or aircraft or two over Benghazi as quickly as possible after the attack commenced, I believe there would not have been a mortar attack on the annex in the morning because I believe the Libyans would have split. They would have been scared to death that we would have gotten a laser on them and killed them.”
Last but not least Air Force Brigadier General Robert Lovell testified while people in Benghazi were fighting for their lives, discussions among U.S. leaders outside Libya “churned on about what we should do…the military waited for a request for assistance from [Hillary Clinton’s] State Department.”
It never came. Lovell was at Africa Command during the Benghazi attack
The question that must be asked and answered is why do elected and appointed officials in Washington want you to believe that military assets were not deployable to Benghazi to have made a difference when they were?
If you see smoke and call the fire department does the fire department procrastinate and debate over whether or not to dispatch a fire truck? Does the fire department tell you to call them back if the smoke bursts into flames? No. The fire department immediately sends help. That is not what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 where four Americans were killed.
May the truth prevail.
RFI to Senator John McCain’s office obtained via Freedom of Information Act below or see it on Scribd
**Correction: Based on different resources there was a discrepancy with the miles from Djibouti to Benghazi in the original article so I removed it. The noted flight time was correct and remained the same. Thanks to Willott for pointing that out to me. **